Notice of Data Event
August 25, 2023 – Gaston College became aware of an incident that may have impacted the privacy of information related to certain individuals. Gaston College takes this incident and the security of the information in its care seriously. As we continue to work toward notifying impacted individuals directly, we are providing potentially affected individuals with information about the incident and steps they may take to help protect their personal information should they feel it is appropriate to do so.
What Happened? On or about February 22, 2023, Gaston College became aware of suspicious activity within our server environment. We immediately worked to secure and restore our systems and launched an investigation, with assistance from the North Carolina Joint Cybersecurity Task Force, which is comprised of law enforcement, emergency management, N.C. National Guard Cyber, the Local Government Information Technology (“IT”) Strike Team, state IT/cyber specialists and federal agencies, and we further involved third-party cybersecurity specialists, in an effort to determine the nature and scope of the event. Through the investigation, it was determined that there was unauthorized access to Gaston College’s network between February 21, 2023, and February 22, 2023. The investigation determined that the unauthorized actor acquired certain files and folders within our system during the period of access.
We undertook a comprehensive programmatic and manual review of the involved files to determine the type of information contained within the files and to whom the information related. On July 11, 2023, we completed the review of the impacted data and then conducted an additional review of our files for contact information to notify potentially impacted individuals about the event.
What Information Was Involved? The information potentially impacted varies by individual but may include name, date of birth, Social Security number, driver’s license number, financial account information, medical/treatment information, student information, and employment information.
What We Are Doing. We at Gaston College take this event and the security of your information seriously. Upon learning of this event, we moved quickly to investigate and respond to the event, assess the security of our systems, restore functionality to our environment, and notify potentially affected individuals. As part of our ongoing commitment to the privacy of personal information in our care, we are working to review our existing policies and procedures and to implement additional administrative and technical safeguards to further secure the information on our systems.
What Affected Individuals Can Do. Potentially affected individuals are encouraged to remain vigilant against incidents of identity theft and fraud by reviewing your account statements and explanation of benefits. You can also find out more about how to safeguard your information by reviewing the below Steps You Can Take to Help Protect Personal Information.
For More Information. If you have any questions, please call the dedicated assistance line at 866.731.2279, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Time, excluding some major U.S. Holidays.
For previous updates and information the College shared about the security incident, you can visit gaston.edu/systems-interruption.
Steps You Can Take To Protect Personal Information
Monitor your credit reports for suspicious or unauthorized activity. Under U.S. law, a consumer is entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit reporting bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To order a free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com or call, toll-free, 1-877-322-8228. Consumers may also directly contact the three major credit reporting bureaus listed below to request a free copy of their credit report.
Place a fraud alert on your credit file. Consumers have the right to place an initial or extended “fraud alert” on a credit file at no cost. An initial fraud alert is a 1-year alert that is placed on a consumer’s credit file. Upon seeing a fraud alert display on a consumer’s credit file, a business is required to take steps to verify the consumer’s identity before extending new credit. If consumers are the victim of identity theft, they are entitled to an extended fraud alert, which is a fraud alert lasting seven years. Should consumers wish to place a fraud alert, please contact any of the three major credit reporting bureaus listed below.
Place a security freeze on your credit file. As an alternative to a fraud alert, consumers have the right to place a “credit freeze” on a credit report, which will prohibit a credit bureau from releasing information in the credit report without the consumer’s express authorization. The credit freeze is designed to prevent credit, loans, and services from being approved in a consumer’s name without consent. However, consumers should be aware that using a credit freeze to take control over who gets access to the personal and financial information in their credit report may delay, interfere with, or prohibit the timely approval of any subsequent request or application they make regarding a new loan, credit, mortgage, or any other account involving the extension of credit. Pursuant to federal law, consumers cannot be charged to place or lift a credit freeze on their credit report. To request a credit freeze, individuals may need to provide some or all of the following information:
- Full name (including middle initial as well as Jr., Sr., II, III, etc.);
- Social Security number;
- Date of birth;
- Addresses for the prior two to five years;
- Proof of current address, such as a current utility bill or telephone bill;
- A legible photocopy of a government-issued identification card (state driver’s license or ID card, etc.); and
- A copy of either the police report, investigative report, or complaint to a law enforcement agency concerning identity theft if they are a victim of identity theft.
Should consumers wish to place a credit freeze or fraud alert, please contact the three major credit reporting bureaus listed below:
Equifax Fraud Alert, P.O. Box 105069 Atlanta, GA 30348-5069
Equifax Credit Freeze, P.O. Box 105788 Atlanta, GA 30348-5788
Experian Fraud Alert, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
Experian Credit Freeze, P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
TransUnion Fraud Alert, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016
TransUnion Credit Freeze, P.O. Box 160, Woodlyn, PA 19094
Consumers may further educate themselves regarding identity theft, fraud alerts, credit freezes, and the steps they can take to protect your personal information by contacting the consumer reporting bureaus, the Federal Trade Commission, or their state Attorney General. The Federal Trade Commission may be reached at: 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20580; www.identitytheft.gov; 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338); and TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The Federal Trade Commission also encourages those who discover that their information has been misused to file a complaint with them. Consumers can obtain further information on how to file such a complaint by way of the contact information listed above. Consumers have the right to file a police report if they ever experience identity theft or fraud. Please note that in order to file a report with law enforcement for identity theft, consumers will likely need to provide some proof that they have been a victim. Instances of known or suspected identity theft should also be reported to law enforcement and the relevant state Attorney General. This notice has not been delayed by law enforcement.
For North Carolina residents, the North Carolina Attorney General may be contacted at: 9001 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-9001; 1-877-566-7226 or 1-919-716-6000; and www.ncdoj.gov.